About 70 coaches from the Southern Africa attended the International Tennis Federation (ITF) coaching conference by BNP Paribas that was held in Gaborone last week. The conference started on Thursday and ended on Saturday.
ITF development officer-Southern Region, Tapiwa Masunga told Sport Monitor that the conference was a success and they achieved their objective. She said the feedback from coaches and speakers was positive.
One of the speakers, Michael Ebert from Austria said he made three presentations to the participants.
One of the presentations was dealing with children aged between four and six years and how they can be introduced to different ball games.
Ebert said being able to play with the ball is crucial for getting into tennis when they are still young.
“It is about learning basic skills with the ball like catching, throwing, striking and kicking the ball.
“They should also determine where the ball would bounce, all the skills they would need later on when they play with each other,” he said.
Ebert said the other presentation he made was on a programme he designed some years back called Match Fit.
He said the programme is about teaching children to play a match at an early age. He said children have to play with each other compared to other sport.
“In some instances, kids take long for them to get into the game. They have to be taking lessons on techniques, but they are not playing. This is what they would apply later when they are 13 years and above,” he said.
Ebert said he also spoke to the coaches about girls’ game, which basically talks about how they can attract girls to tennis.
He said they want to keep the girls in the game and focus on their needs. He said it is difficult to teach children how to play tennis
He added that tennis is not about hitting the ball back and forth, but it is a technical sport.
A participant at the conference, Francis Rigoui from the ITF Training Centre for East Africa based in Kenya said he learnt a lot from the conference and also shared what they do at the centre.
He said the centre has 13 players from different countries on the continent, including seven from the Southern Africa.
Denzel Seetso from Botswana is also at the centre.
“It is his second year at the centre and his future is bright. We would like to see Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC), Botswana Tennis Association (BTA) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) supporting him to realise his dream. It is simple and difficult at the same time to qualify as a student at the centre,” he said, referring to Seetso.
Rigoui said ITF organises Confederation of African Tennis (CAT) events, which are used to rank players.
He said the ranking is the benchmark to consider entry into the centre and they cannot pick a player who is not competing in CAT events.
He said coaches from the centre travel around the events, scout for potential students and invite those with potential to the centre for a month of trials.
Rigoui observed that tennis has shown potential of growth on the continent, but regions must work together and lift each other. Coaches who attended the conference were from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Mauritius, Angola, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini.